By Nimet Kirac
ISTANBUL (Al-Monitor) — His most recent album sung in Homshetsi can be taken as an SOS call, says Hikmet Akcicek. The tongue, a northwestern dialect of Western Armenian, is one of 15 endangered languages spoken in Turkey — and Akcicek’s band Vova means to keep it alive.
The cover of the band’s July record, “Garmi Doc” (“Red Truck” in Homshetsi), shows a woman in red traditional clothing. For Akcicek, it’s a chance to showcase his culture and mother tongue, spoken in the mountainous northeastern Black Sea region of Turkey, and becoming extinct for a combination of reasons.
“Every kid born in Hopa [a town in Artvin province in the northeastern Black Sea region] would first learn Homshetsi, use it in daily life and marry a fellow Homshetsi. Now, kids learn Turkish first thing, and their daily lives are dominated by Turkish,” Akcicek told Al-Monitor.
He added that since the 1980s, many of the Homshetsi (or Hemshin) people from the coastline along Rize’s Ikizdere county up to the Georgian border — have moved to big cities. For various reasons, many of them have migrated from the region to other Turkish provinces such as Sakarya and Erzurum or abroad to Russia, Abkhazia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. Akcicek said, “Like many local languages, Homshetsi and its culture are fading.”
Akcicek explained, “Vova is a project with a mission to compile, record and carry forward the hymns of a culture and a language to present and future generations rather than [simply] produce albums or play on stage.”